Art is a Lifestyle
For Jiemei Lin, art is a way of life and an opportunity to create special connections with others. It’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle. From a very young age, Jiemei has been drawing pictures and ingesting ideas from all around her. She grew up in Hangzhou, China—one of the oldest cities in the world. Jiemei calls it an “old and weird town”, full of all kinds of interesting Asian architecture.
Since this young artist didn’t have any siblings, she spent her time reading, making drawings, and imagining odd and surreal scenes in her mind. Though she was alone most of the time, Jiemei says she wasn’t lonely. Her artistry and imagination kept her company.
“I have been making drawings since I was young,” Jiemei said. “Drawing has always been a very personal and important thing for my life, like a nature need. When I was young, I wrote stories with illustrations. My language teacher, cousins, and friends were my audience. They followed my updates of the story in a very serious way.”
Ironically enough, her parents discouraged her from fantastic ideas like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and other “kid stuff”. They believed in science with all of their hearts and didn’t allow their daughter to watch TV.
In school, Jiemei was reassured of her talent in the arts. Unlike her mother who was a mathematician, Jiemei struggled in math and science but thrived in history, language, geography, and art.
“Fortunately, most of my schoolmates thought I was nerdy and creative at the same time,” Jiemei said. “I was a character with personality, not the boring one.”
Over the years, Jiemei formed a close relationship with Yutian Wang, a professor at the China Academy of Art who is also a family friend. She helped watch his children when she was a teenager, and took a lot of advice from him. Jiemei considers him as her first art teacher and mentor.
“I told him I couldn’t imagine having a life in the future without creating art, but I didn’t want to be poor either,” Jiemei said. “He told me I could be a designer. At the same time, I found myself spending too much time looking at IKEA catalogs. So at age 13, I decided to be a designer.”
After finishing her undergraduate degree at Zhejiang University, Jiemei moved to Ohio to study in the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Cincinnati. As a lover of film, Jiemei also joined a movie club, had a lot of fun, and made some close friends. “I had the best time of my life in college,” she said.
While in graduate school, Jiemei worked as an assistant for Professor Charles Woodman. Her job included working on the electronic art website and creating other graphic designs for the department of design, architecture, art, and planning. Jiemei also worked as an intern for the Cincinnati Art Museum for one year.
“That was a fantastic experience for me, to make graphic design for art collections,” she remembered.
Jiemei’s favorite form of art is called installation, which is an art genre that is site-specific and transforms a space to create a unique experience that grabs all of your senses. “I like art pieces with interaction between the audience and the content of the artist,” Jiemei said. “I think that’s the reason why I like design in general, especially user-experience design so much.”
In the spring of 2013, Jiemei created an installation art piece for her thesis. She made a tent and set it in the gallery space, then decorated the inside part of the tent to be a corner bedroom. The set also included a video and sculptures.
“I was very satisfied when people went to the gallery and got into my sculpture to watch the video, guess the content of my art, and feel the space I built for them,” she said. Of everything Jiemei has created over the years, this installation piece is by far her favorite.
After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, Jiemei got her first full-time design job working for our company AlvaEDU. She says she is passionate about education for a variety of reasons.
“Because of my background, my culture, and my experience with higher educators, I believe the power of knowledge and education is very important,” she said. “Working on e-learning means a lot to me.”
Since starting her career with us, she has learned the value of communication during the creative process. She collaborates with the instructional designers often and puts herself in the seat of the user to make better UI designs. Making sketches is also helpful for her as well. So far, she is most proud of her organ and skeletal illustrations for interactive exercises.
“As a designer at AlvaEDU, I have opportunities to gain a lot of knowledge from the courses I develop,” Jiemei said. “My creative director and the creative team give me much freedom to work with my own visual language; that’s the thing I appreciate very much.”
When Jiemei goes home after the work day, art is still on her mind. She regularly meets up with other artists in the Cincinnati area. They critique each other’s pieces, encourage each other in their endeavors, and plan group shows and other activities involving the arts.
When she’s not spending time with friends, Jiemei likes to watch Wes Anderson and Miyazaki movies, thrift shop, decorate her apartment, and read books such as the Harry Potter series. Some of her favorite artists include Richard Serra, Yoko Ono, and Kenya Hara—who changed her entire perspective as a graphic designer. He is the creative director of the brand MUJI and has written many books on design theory.
But it’s not the famous designers and directors who solely inspire Jiemei. She finds inspiration from everything around her.
“Everything in my life inspires me,” she said. “…such as a short conversation with a random new friend or a small old book store I walked by after work.”